Posted by: Peadar Ban | June 11, 2009

America’s Game

Let me talk about baseball.

I left the game due to injury when I was about ten years old and have been out of it since then. That was almost 60 years ago.

But, you know, there’s something about it that fascinates me, still, though I haven’t played a full game since; a kind of longing and admiration, a pure and simple delight. It’s the same sort of fascination I get watching a tree limb wave in the a slight breeze, a rank of clouds go by on a sunny day or the waters in a little stream, a large river or the wide ocean move. Everything changes, and nothing changes in those motions of truth, beauty, action and serenity. And don’t you know, those things are only to be enjoyed in the round as it were; while actually being out among them. No one will be crazy enough to say that watching a movie about a beach is as good as or better than being at one, or any one of those things that let us be in the bodies God gave us for using and taking full joy of; even if it’s only the pleasure of watching others at play.

There’s an openness about the game, a kind of anticipation that other folks have noticed and spoken of; folks much better at it than I am for sure. “It” being noticing things and speaking about them. They speak about baseball using words like infinity and timelessness. I speak about baseball and might use words like The Babe, or Mickey, or Willie (Mays not Stargell). All kinds of people can play this game. That’s another thing I like about it; little kids, old men, even Moms waiting for the next one, the little star pitcher to come, can step up to the plate and take a swing.

With all that infinity, openness and “here comes everybody” attitude the game has to be a small “c” catholic kind of game. But, who knows, we could probably use it in the RCIA program if we ran that during the summer. What’s not Catholic about a game with rules, boundaries, umpires, the mercy of “walks” and the three chances of “strikes”…or “outs”; the recognition of errors and the redemption of coming “home” at last?

“Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” is the first line of practically the first song everyone learns after “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, or some such. It could be a national anthem along with “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful” and the one which no one but the late Pavarotti could sing well. And, it’s a better one, I think. There we are with our date, wife, kids, friends, the whole town, singing the same song and lovin’ it. Tell me what’s better? It’s a shame, I think, and one which we may be asked to account for when the Omnipotent Umpire assesses us all, if we lose such a great source of delight for all the senses, one of the Creator of All Games’ most delightful gifts, simply because we wanted to stay home and watch the Red Sox.

Last night we were present until 10:58pm, along with about fifty other hardy souls as the Home Town Team battled the Best In The League in a standoff into the eleventh inning (when we were finally driven out by the increasing cold). I used the time alternately yelling at the umpires…a pleasant and cleansing experience…and thinking about infinity and eternity. Then we left because I was shivering.

The game went to fourteen innings in four hours and twenty minutes I found out this morning. I had awakened wondering if they were still playing. Our side won on a solo home run in the bottom half of the fourteenth. The fellow who hit it had started off the scoring twelve innings earlier by doing the same thing with two of his team mates on base. And in that one act lies the basis for the resolution of all great stories in the history of the race. The hero who strikes the first blow is the one who delivers the coup de grace to the vanquished enemy. Well done.

Well, I thought, the “triumph of the just” has taken place. The team they played had murdered them on several occasions in the past during this young season. But, they would not give in last night. Especially pleasing to me were the number of double plays I watched take place around Second Base last night. Our boys moved and leaped like dancers. I have watched Nureyev and and Baryshnikov dance and I have seen Phil Rizzuto control space at Yankee Stadium. I doubt whether any of those three men were better at what they did than a young fellow named “Boomer” Berry was last night at what he was doing, especially in the tenth inning after three hours of exertion when he leaped to his left across second base to catch a nasty ground ball about to hop into center field and flip it to the second baseman as he twirled and landed. It ended the inning for the Bad Guys from Brockton, Rocky Marciano’s home town; a place still known for tough brawlers.

I’ve been thinking about double plays and home runs today as I replay the game in my memory. They have a scriptural significance, you know, and that may just be the reason why this one nation under God was the one to give birth to the best game ever. You doubt my reference to scripture? To what else may we apply the lesson of a double play if not to the many references about sin and its effects and punishments being visited on friends and family? How else can a double play be viewed except as an example of God’s swift and uncompromising judgment and justice? “Sit down sinner! Y’er out! Not only are you out, but you have the next bit of eternity to contemplate how your failure led to the downfall of many.”

And what but the truth of the economy of grace do home runs teach us? The clean-up man comes to bat and delivers his team mates home with a mighty blast. Aren’t all of them, all homes runs, MIGHTY BLASTS! Like Gideon’s or Gabriel’s trumpet they ring the tocsin against the enemy and bring victory, salvation and peace to all who desire it against the enemy.

I suppose I make too much of it. After all, it is merely a game, a day’s or an evening’s pastime. A trivial thing.

Like life.

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Responses

  1. you truly amaze me!!!!

    • How? Or, better yet, why? Anyway, thank you.

  2. wonderful read….from a man who understands the really good things in life…you are the old philosopher, not Yogi Berra.

    send it in to MLB, please!

    • Hello Jim,

      I think minor league ball is the way the game was meant to be played, in small parks in small towns…or neighborhoods…with guys you know from places nearby (mostly). The stuff that goes on in MLB has no relation at all, at all, to the game that gave rise to The Field of Dreams.

      Of course, the minor leagues are a business, too. But so is Mr. Daniel\’s little store down the block, or Bob\’s Service Station, or Doc Portnoy\’s Pharmacy where a little kid can get an \”egg cream\” while his mother fills her prescription mixed up for her by the \”Doc\” himself in the back.

      And, speaking of businesses, so too, lamentably, is Wal-Mart.

      I think you get my point. MLB wouldn\’t understand what I wrote.

      Peadar Ban


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